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kennel cough

What is Kennel Cough?


  • A very common, highly contagious infection of a dog's airways, usually causing a bad, hacking cough. - It can make dogs very poorly indeed!


What causes Kennel Cough?

  • It can be caused by viruses (e.g. parainfluenza virus) or bacteria (e.g. bordatella bronchiseptica)

  • It is spread in a similar way to the human cold (although it is not related).  Therefore, it can be caught from being close to another dog that has it, or going somewhere that an infected dog has just been.

  • It is highly contagious

  • It irritates the throat and nose causing a bad cough and sometimes sneezing.

  • It takes 2-14 days for symptoms to develop after catching it.


What are the signs of Kennel Cough


  • A sudden hacking cough is the most common sign.

  • Sneezing, wheezing and feeling ill are other (less common signs).


Diagnosis of Kennel Cough

  • There is no specific test for Kennel Cough

  • A full veterinary examination is vital to make sure that none of the differentials (other problems that can look like kennel cough) are likely to be taking place.

  • Other tests to rule out the differentials are sometimes important, but often not necessary for most of the patients we see.

Differentials (problems that look like Kennel Cough, but aren't!)

  • Pneumonia - a very dangerous infection of the lungs - in some dogs, kennel cough can cause this.

  • Lungworm - a parasite of the lungs which causes coughing, but can quickly progress to fatal bleeding and seizures.

  • Heart Failure - the loss of ability of the heart to pump blood properly around the body - this causes fluid in the lungs and coughing.

  • Lung Cancer - this is much rarer than kennel cough, but is extremely dangerous and is the reason why we will recommend x-rays for coughing dogs that are not responding to kennel cough treatment, or that are showing signs not completely consistent with kennel cough.​​

Treatment of Kennel Cough

  • Viral kennel cough has no specific treatment, for most dogs it will get better by itself within 14 days.

  • Therefore, after a veterinary examination, if no other problems are suspected, TLC and rest often are all that is prescribed.

  • Sometimes an anti-inflammatory is also given to give some relief from the irritated airways.

  • Some dogs will need antibiotics or further investigations (depending on what is found by the vet)

Prognosis for Kennel Cough (how a dog is likely to do afterwards)

  • We would expect most dogs to recover fully in 10-14 days

  • Some dogs continue to cough for a long time and it is really important to investigate to make sure that the reason is kennel cough and not one of the differentials listed above.

Prevention of Kennel Cough

  • A lot of dogs will get kennel cough during their lifetime, but dogs who mix with lots of other dogs (e.g. at a dog walkers or in kennels) are more likely to get it.

  • There is a vaccination against some of the bugs that can cause kennel cough, but it does not work 100% of the time.

  • Dogs with kennel cough should be kept way from other dogs until they have completely stopped coughing - to reduce the chances that it spreads.

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